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Photo: courtesy of www.isiphotos.com

USMNT Kicks Off Gold Cup Run at Audi Field

The U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) is gearing up for the 2019 Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Gold Cup, squaring off against Jamaica on June 5 at Audi Field in a rematch of its 2017 Gold Cup finals contest, which saw the U.S. team win 2-1.

The game is the first for the U.S. following its official submission of the team’s 23-player roster for the tournament and marks their first appearance at Audi Field as a full unit under head coach Gregg Berhalter.

“We’re in the beginning of a new time with a new coach and younger players, and anytime you get new energy, it creates excitement,” says forward Paul Arriola of D.C. United fame. “After the few games we’ve had under Gregg and his system, it’s been very positive. We’re all very optimistic and fans should be excited about the future and our first real competition with the Gold Cup.”

Previously, the team played its DC matches at RFK Stadium. Arriola is looking forward to playing at Audi Field – his home field when he suits up for the D.C. United.

“It’s exciting because I play at Audi Field week in and week out,” he says. “The fans never disappoint and are extremely loyal. It’s a great stadium and atmosphere.”

Aaron Long, a defender with the New York Red Bulls, is happy that he’ll be finally be cheered on when he steps foot onto Audi.

“I’ve been going there with the Red Bulls and playing against DC, so it will be nice to be in this new stadium and be rooted for instead of against,” he says. “It feels super up close and personal. The fans are right on top of you and it’s an amazing place to play.”

The National Team opens this year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, which takes place from June 15 to July 7 in the U.S., Costa Rica and Jamaica. This year’s lineup includes a game against Guyana on June 18 in Minnesota as the USMNT looks to win its seventh title in the tournament’s 15-year history. The team will also have games against Trinidad & Tobago and Panama.

The trio of Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge) and Sean Johnson (NYCFC) will serve as goaltenders for the tournament. The team’s defenders will consist of such superstars as Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Tim Ream (Fulham) and Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact).

Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Tyler Boyd (MKE Ankaragucu) and Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders) join Arriola as top forwards, and Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) and Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy) lead the talented collection of midfielders.

“We take this tournament so seriously and we want to make our country proud, so to be part of this team just means everything to us and we’re going to go out there strong,” Long says. “We’re really starting to gel and these games right before the Gold Cup are going to be the last thing we need to bring this team together and go out full force.”

Jamaica is one of the favorites in the tournament, making it to the finals in each of the past two years, so the road to the Gold Cup won’t be easy.

“Our team is no joke,” Arriola says. “We are here to win and continue to build as a national team and be respected around the world. It never gets old putting on the jersey and seeing your national flag on it and knowing you are representing a huge, powerful country with a lot of history and the history of U.S. soccer.”

Don’t miss the USMNT at Audi Field on Wednesday, June 5 at 7 p.m. Learn more at www.ussoccer.com.

Audi Field: 100 Potomac Ave. SW, DC; 202-587-5000; www.audifielddc.com

Photo: courtesy of Sony Music

Zara Larsson Is Proud To Speak Her Truth

Swedish pop sensation Zara Larsson has been making waves since the tender age of 15. Now 21, the outspoken singer of hits like “Ruin My Life” and “Never Forget You” prioritizes using her massive platform to advocate for herself and what she believes in. She’s headlining this year’s Capital Pride concert on June 9, and spoke to us about why Pride is important to her, being a role model to her fans and sticking up for herself.

On Tap: Why do you want to perform at the Capital Pride concert?
Zara Larsson:
I always try to go to Pride in Stockholm. It’s something I really support. I’m lucky enough to have parents who raised me to believe that everyone has the right to love whoever they want. It’s really an honor to be performing at Pride, because it’s still needed. It’s an important cause for people to come out and be able to celebrate being themselves.

OT: What can your audience expect from your performance? Do you have anything different planned?
ZL:
I know we’ll have a great time because I know when I perform with my band, we always have so much fun. Most of my set is up-tempo and fun and dancey, so I hope to bring a little party. I’m very spontaneous, but I have something rehearsed that I’ve been doing for awhile.

OT: In addition to your participation in Pride, you’re known for being outspoken about your beliefs in general. Is this something you always wanted to use your platform for?
ZL:
I think that some people might be worried because they have a career in singing and acting, and might be scared of voicing their opinions because of what other people might think. I think that human rights will always be more important than my career. I just believe it’s a part of me. I stand up for what I believe in. I have no problem with voicing that.

OT: Why is that something that’s very important to you in both your personal and professional life?
ZL:
I think it’s important for me to do that because I know I have a lot of followers who are young people looking up to me. I’d like to be a good role model in that kind of scenario. A good role model to me isn’t to not drink or party or curse. It’s more how you treat people. That’s what defines a good person to me. I’d like to influence as many people as possible. I’m very loud. If I don’t agree with something, I’ll let you know. In school, I was always arguing with teachers and my parents. They raised me in a way where they allowed me to have discussions with them, question things and ask, “Well, why is that?”

I think that kind of shaped me into the person I am.

OT: That’s a very admirable way to be, especially as someone in the public eye. Do you ever feel pressure when acting as a role model or voicing your opinions?
ZL:
It’s hard because of course you want to make people open their eyes and be more empathetic and understanding. But it is hard to argue and be sensitive when someone is saying, “Oh, but if you are gay…” Some parents will say, “You don’t deserve to live under my roof anymore. I don’t want to have any contact with you.” And when things are to that point, it’s very hard to realize how to talk sense into someone like that. It’s a f–king art form. It has to be. But it’s hard. I don’t think it’s impossible. I think that’s why we need to have this debate and talk about it all the time.

OT: You’re a huge advocate for yourself, too, especially in having creative control over your work. What’s it like for you as an international pop star to exercise that kind of agency?
ZL:
I think that everyone can kind of relate, whether you’re in music or not, just as a woman in regular life. I feel like women in general don’t get a lot of credit. People don’t really want to believe immediately that you did all this by yourself or you’re capable of doing it. The songs that I love that have been doing well are songs that I had to fight for. Growing up, I had to learn that I don’t need to listen to every single person who has an opinion on what I do. I know what’s good and what’s not, and should have control over that.

Catch Zara Larsson at the Capital Pride concert on Sunday, June 9 from 6-7 p.m. at the Capitol concert stage. The concert begins at 1 p.m. and is free and open to the public, with VIP and pit passes available for purchase. For more Capital Pride programming, visit www.capitalpride.org. For more on Larsson, visit www.zaralarssonofficial.com.

Capital Pride concert: Pennsylvania Avenue and 3rd Street in NW, DC

Kathleen Turner // Photo: Butcher Photography

Kathleen Turner Shines at Arena Stage Gala

When Kathleen Turner first came to New York as a wannabe actress, someone asked her if she could sing, but knowing there were little parts for a woman baritone, she replied “no.”

While the husky-voiced actress went on to an incredible, award-winning movie career, which included starring roles in such hits as Body HeatRomancing the Stone and Peggy Sue Got Married, (not to mention voicing Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit), plus a theatre career that included Tony noms for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Turner secretly had a strong desire to sing.

So, while having lunch one day with Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith, the question came out again about her singing – and this time Turner replied with affirmation. The response led to Smith casting her as the titular character in Mother Courage and Her Children in 2014, a show Turner describes “a play with singing,” rather than a musical.

This was just one of the stories Turner offered at the 2019 Arena Stage Gala, where she performed excerpts from her cabaret, Finding My Voice.

Turner is no stranger to the Arena Stage. In addition to her “singing debut,” she’s also graced the SW, DC theatre in Red Hot Patriot, The Year of Magical Thinking and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Backed by her music director Mark James on piano, Sean Harkness on guitar and Ritt Henn on bass, Turner dazzled on tunes such as “I Can’t Get You Out of My Heart,” “Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home” and “Sweet Kentucky Ham.”

Before each song, she regaled the patrons with tales of her life, explaining how her dad was a foreign service officer who served as a diplomat for the State Department, and how her travels and life as a youngster led to her prolific career. She was funny and captivating throughout, proving every bit the movie star she still is.

At the Gala, Arena Stage honored Nina Totenberg, NPR’s award-winning legal affairs correspondent, with this year’s Beth Newburger Schwartz Award in recognition of her ground-breaking reporting in the broadcast world and her continual support of the arts.

In accepting her award, Totenberg noted she was a long-time Arena Stage patron and has seen many productions over the years with her husband and friends, and looks forward to many more outstanding performances to come.

Lindsey Brittain Collins was also honored on the night, winning the Emerging Leader Award for her excellence as a young artist and her outstanding work in the community. An oil acrylic painter, Collins uses collage to express social issues of race, religion, sexuality and gender.

The Gala, which supports Arena Stage’s award-winning artistic productions and community engagement programs, was an enjoyable evening allowing theater lovers to get together, support the arts and experience Turner in an enjoyable, special performance.

For more information about this year’s Arena Stage Gala, visit www.arenastage.org.

Photo: Jati Lindsay

Kennedy Center Arts Summit Explores The Human Journey: Creating the Story of Us

On April 29 the annual Kennedy Center Arts Summit created space for leaders in the arts and arts advocacy to address the difficult questions surrounding the role of the arts in an unjust world. The theme of this year’s symposium, The Human Journey: Creating the Story of Us, invited the dissolution of traditional boundaries between artistic disciplines and between the “arts world” and the “rest of the world.”

Storytellers from all walks operating as catalysts for change within a dramatic variety of arenas convened to redefine what even a story is – A technology? An art form? A breathing thing all its own? – and to consider why it matters here and now.

Words spoken aloud, words heard, narratives propelled forward into the space in a room, into the air, are driven by voices – and that is what gives them power over paper.

In a series of roulette-style interviews punctuated by musical performances, the first half of the day-long summit proved just that. The format alone attested to the power that can be wielded by being in charge of a narrative – as each session’s interviewee became interviewer for the next panelist, the dynamic shift in the person, progress and direction a story can take was on display.

Snap Judgement’s Stephanie Vu, who uses the awareness of this power to combat Complex PTSD, asked the audience to consider “how does the experience shift when you go from the interviewer to the interviewee, even when you’re interviewing yourself.” She continued, “giving of self is part of the process of unfolding a story.”

Hip-hop and rap artists, poets, podcast producers, PhD sociologists, musicians, educators pushed on each other and themselves to place art in dialogue with dominant narratives told in the public, and within the self, to identify the parts of our tangled stories that we do and don’t share, and to consider how the process of creating a new story is like stitching together disparate wounds to emerge with a stronger whole.

And with seeds planted during the morning, afternoon breakout sessions took a deeper dive, pushing participants to examine intentionality, authorship and intersectionality; pursue the idea of “radical listening”; and discuss strategies for generating stories, both personal and communal.

Theatre artist Kaneza Schaal reminded Vanessa Ramon-Ibarra, a 16 year-old member of 826DC who is struggling to keep the oral histories of her family alive, that “the world is built of stories” and that in telling hers, she is “building an entire ecosystem.”

Earlonne Woods, formerly incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, and Bay Area artist Nigel Poor, started the podcast Ear Hustle when Earlonne was still within in the prison system. Woods encouraged the audience and his fellow panelists to let conversations happen: let stories emerge, let yourself tell your story. In essence, he told us, there is more than one side to every story, and there is more than one layer to every character.

James L. Knight Foundation’s Victoria Rogers questioned the role of patrons of the arts – if storytelling is a technology, who has access to it and who decides who gets that access?

And finally, Princeton sociologist Betsy Levy Paluck gave us scientific evidence for the power of storytelling. Stories, she says, can motivate war, but they can also drive its resolution. In a study that explored the rolls of mass media in the Rwandan genocide, Paluck showed just how intimately and biologically stories bind us on a deep neural level.

Ultimately, if we use that bond to do good, the art we create within and of ourselves can actually change the world.

The Kennedy Center Arts Summit is an annual one-day convening to investigate the power and potential of the arts, for more information visit here.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts:
2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600;
www.kennedy-center.org

Mr Twin Sister

Music Picks: Judas Priest, Santigold, Mr Twin Sister and More

WEDNESDAY, MAY 1

The Bright Light Social Hour
The president is a drag queen – well, at least in the new music video for “Lie to Me” by The Bright Light Social Hour. Inspired by the 2016 election, the psychedelic rock band’s single from their newest album Jude Vol. 1 compares Trump supporters to infatuated lovers blinded by devotion. After playing at SXSW, The Bright Light Social Hour immediately embarked on a tour. It’s only fitting they bring their conscious rock to DC. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2475-2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

SATURDAY, MAY 4

Delta Rae
Hailing from North Carolina, Delta Rae’s six-member, country-folk band performs regularly at music festivals around the country. They’ve taken the stage at Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Firefly, Summerfest, Lollapalooza, Hangout Fest and more. Delta Rae released their second album After It All in 2015. Two years later, they released an EP, A Long and Happy Life, and are currently touring to support their latest work. Doors at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

MONDAY, MAY 6

Santigold
Few musicians seem like they are having as much fun as Santigold, an artist who seems to have an endless amount of energy. With soothing vocals, wise lyrics and often thumping electric backdrops, Santigold has been a pop mainstay since 2008; and because of her longevity, she’s celebrating 10 years of success since her debut self-titled album. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $40. Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

TUESDAY, MAY 7

Nana Grizol
This Athens, Georgia outfit is described as an indie folk band, however they play with a breakneck pace unlike most folk bands I’ve heard. The lo-fi approach to their instrumentation combined with their harmonic chants on songs like “Many Places 2 Call Home” and “New Years Wish,” both off of their 2018 release Theo Zumm, is infectious. Another interesting aspect of this band is the length of their songs, as most are reminiscent of old punk anthems lasting anywhere from 45 seconds to two minutes. Despite this brevity, the group touches on everything from growing up to American hypocrisy. Show at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12. Comet Ping Pong: 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.cometpingpong.com

SATURDAY, MAY 11

Ben Platt
Ben Platt is familiar with the proverbial spotlight. In fact, it’s been on him all his life. From the age of nine, Platt has appeared on the big stage many times, most notably in Dear Evan Hansen for which he won the 2017 Tony Award for Best Lead Actor in a Musical.His powerhouse vocals, emotive performances and acting chops even landed him a role in the hit comedy film Pitch Perfect. As if that wasn’t enough, Platt, who is signed to Atlantic Records, released his debut album Sing to Me Instead just last month. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $50. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

Mr Twin Sister
With weightless, ethereal melodies and the angelic vocals of lead singer Andrea Estella, Mr Twin Sister possess the ability to send listeners into a dreamy trance. But don’t be fooled – they can also get down with the funkiest of basslines. Nonetheless, their sounds set the perfect mood for spring. Mr Twin Sister is best known for “Meet the Frownies,” which was sampled by Dr. Dre and Kendrick Lamar. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

SUNDAY, MAY 12

Judas Priest
Talk about longevity! Legendary heavy metal band Judas Priest has been disrupting the scene for 50 years. They achieved great mainstream success early on, selling millions of albums and solidifying their position as one of the best heavy metal bands of all time. But time and success haven’t slowed their ambitions. Firepower, released last year, is the group’s 18th album. Rumor has it the next one is already in the works. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $75. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

Lee DeWyze
Remember the autotune craze? It feels like 10 years ago you couldn’t put together a playlist without half of the songs being aided by electric vocals. From Daft Punk to Bon Iver to T-Pain, the tool was a large part of the pop culture zeitgeist. And while some did it better than others, a ton of musicians gave it a shot. Some of the best music from this fad included the moments exceptionally talented vocalists used the sonic tool for layering. One of the men capable of this feat is Lee DeWyze, and though autotune is less frequent these days, when this artist decides to do so, it focuses his singing talent. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $20. Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. E. Vienna, VA; www.jamminjava.com 

MONDAY, MAY 13

Kate Toupin
A former Houndmouth keyboardist and vocalist, Kate Toupin is further proving she might be more interesting in a solo setting. Her music is energetic and honest, and her debut EP Moroccan Ballroom was entirely live, providing a transparent sound less talented musicians might avoid in their first release. The only thing better than hearing a live studio session on a streaming platform is to witness it firsthand, and now’s your chance. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $13-$15. DC9 Nightclub: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club 

WEDNESDAY, MAY 15

Johnnyswim
The husband and wife musical duo of Johnnyswim are unreasonably charming. Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez have been making heartfelt music together since 2005. It’s unclear whether love or music came first, but who cares? It works. In their latest album Moonlight, the band joined forces with Grammy Award-winning producer and songwriter Malay. Invigorated by a fresh perspective, Johnnyswim is back and better than ever. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $40. Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.thelincolndc.com

 FRIDAY, MAY 17

Jessica Pratt
A descriptor you’ll see for Jessica Pratt pretty much everywhere is that she’s not loud. Her music is quiet, creating a sense of intimacy and secrecy. Though Pratt has a talent for using her voice, she chooses to almost whisper into the mic, allowing the guitar chords to stand out in their own right. All her songs are soft and gentle but each cause pause, making you think and focus all at once. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. Miracle Theatre: 535 8th St. SE, DC; www.themiracletheatre.com

Juice WRLD
Juice WRLD is to hip-hop what Nirvana was to rock. That’s to say, their music speaks to the pains of growing up, teenage angst and young heartbreak. This kind of self-consciousness is a phenomenon in rap music, generally known for its braggadocious and confident lyrics, though reflective in other ways. But Juice WRLD is at the forefront of new age rap. His latest album Death Race for Love debuted at number one on theBillboard 200. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $50. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

FRIDAY, MAY 17

Molly Tuttle
There are few better at playing an acoustic guitar than Molly Tuttle. Her bluegrass songs serve as a showcase for her biting lyrics, guitar skills and vibrant, twangy vocals. The artist has mastered the genre, ranging from quick-paced anthems to stinging ballads. She’s versatile, she’s exceptionally talented and she’s a tremendous songwriter. No frills, no B.S. – just unmistakable bluegrass. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $18. Pearl Street Warehouse: 33 Pearl St. SW, DC; www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com

SUNDAY, MAY 19

Olden Yolk
This band describes its music as dystopian, which is an epic way to summarize this duo’s penchant for one-off creations. Made up of songwriting duo Shane Butler and Caity Schaffer, their interlaced vocals ebb and flow beautifully over their synchronized instrumentation, often featuring guitar strums and a steady drum beat. There’s nothing flashy about the two, kind of like how there’s nothing flashy about egg yolks – is that what they’re going for? Sure, probably. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $12. DC9 Nightclub: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club 

Tacocat

While the words taco and cat are SEO dynamos in their own right, putting the two words together is a brilliant marketing strategy for targeting millennials. While I know I’m overthinking this name thing, the band Tacocat doesn’t even need a silly name to get people interested. Their music is more than capable of holding attention. The band lives in a world ruled by surf rock and indie chill, providing ample opportunity for dancing, toking or whatever else you’re in the mood for. Show at 7 p.m. Tickets $18. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

TUESDAY, MAY 21

TV Girl
I think TV Girl describes their music better than I ever could: “You can sing along to, but wouldn’t sing around your parents, unless your parents are avant-garde film fans who smoke pot while fantasizing about aliens in outer space.” Okay, okay, I added everything after parents, but the point still stands: this indie band makes easily digestible music with some pretty deep subject matter. I mean, their last album was titled Death of a Party Girl, which could also be the title of a faux biography of a fictional scream queen. Either way, this sometimes X-rated music is super chill and extremely smooth. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

WEDNESDAY, MAY 22

Chromatics
Chromatics have yet to release their long-awaited fifth studio album. In the meantime, fans will have to feast on the electronic band’s latest single “Time Rider,” an updated 80s synth-pop gem. Performing for the first time in years, the electronic band announced a six-week tour, Double Exposure, making a stop at DC’s iconic 9:30 Club. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $31. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

THURSDAY, MAY 23

American Football
The sport of American football is rough and tumble. If you look up NFL highlights, you’ll probably hear hip-hop or metal because of the breakneck pace. The band American Football is a much more subdued soft rock band with slow starts and dramatic choruses. Their self-titled third LP is increasingly steady, which is perfect for what the band is going for. If you’re more into subtle emo sways, this band is probably for you. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

Disclosure
Best known for their brilliant collaborations with Sam Smith, Disclosure is at the top of their game. The four-time Grammy-nominated electronic duo will be touring in the U.S. for the first time in three years. Last year, Disclosure released EP Moonlight, intended to proceed the band’s third studio album expected this summer. Doors at 9 p.m. Tickets are $30-$40. Echostage: 2135 Queens Chapel Rd. NE, DC; www.echostage.com

MONO
Tokyo-based instrumental rock band MONO rejects the traditional standards of rock music, embracing genre-mixing methods and never conforming to musical norms. They often blend orchestral arrangements with heavily distorted, guitar-based instrumentals. After dropping their tenth studio album Nowhere Now Here, MONO has been touring the world quite extensively. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15-$30. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

Photo: Trent Johnson

SHAED Rise To The Top Together

The path to making it in music has never been linear. In the social media age, it’s become a bit cleaner – blog support, streaming and ravenous music fans on the Internet rallying behind you can quickly take an artist out of local obscurity and into the national spotlight. For DC’s SHAED, an electro-pop trio formed in 2016, a combination of almost every success marker in music of the past 20 years brought them to where they are now.

In the literal sense, they’ve joined On Tap outside the LINE Hotel in Adams Morgan on a sunny spring day. The trio of vocalist Chelsea Lee and twin brothers and multi-instrumentalists Max and Spencer Ernst arrived with all their gear in tow, and after our interview were straight off to New York. While radio play, streaming support and a strong fanbase all tangibly factored into their meteoric rise to success with only EPs and singles released, it’s their sheer hustle and willpower to make it in an industry constantly changing and challenging them that’s perhaps the key factor in their ascension.

“The last six months, we’ve been on a headlining tour,” Lee says. “We did a lot of radio promo, we’re working on an album and we’ve been writing a ton. It’s been really, really great. Obviously, the Apple commercial lifted off a bunch of things for us.”

The Apple commercial in question wasn’t even just an Apple commercial. When the new MacBook Air debuted at the end of 2018 at the annual Apple summit, SHAED’s song “Trampoline” soundtracked CEO Tim Cook’s unveiling. An artist’s song appearing as a sync in these iconic commercials is a badge of honor after the brand established itself as a musical tastemaker in the early 2000s. With this kind of exposure, doors begin to open – and quickly. But the band didn’t even know when to expect the change.

“Like nine months ago, Apple reached out to us because they were interested in using ‘Trampoline,’” Max explains. “We got them all the files, but then didn’t really hear anything for months. Two weeks before the commercial actually aired, they reached out and said, ‘We’re going to use your song.’  They didn’t tell us what it was for, and they didn’t tell us until that day. So the day everyone else saw the commercial was they day we saw it, too.”

“Tim Cook did the announcement in Brooklyn and I was like, ‘Let’s just livestream this and we’ll see what’s going on,” Lee adds. “Spencer and I were in the car driving, Max was at home and I just put it on. And Tim Cook goes, ‘Aaaaand the MacBook Air!’ I said to Spencer, ‘Wouldn’t it be so funny if our song came on?’ and it did. Spencer and I had to pull over and scream.”

“Trampoline” is a perfect introduction to the band’s polished, haunting pop sound. Its lyrics could even serve as an ethos to another thing that’s made the band so successful – their connection to one another. Friends for many years while pursuing other musical endeavors – Lee as a solo artist and twin brothers Max and Spencer as alt-folk band The Walking Sticks – their relationships eventually blossomed into the band as it exists today. Lee and Spencer are married, and the three live together and have a palpable bond evident in person and in their music.

The chorus in “Trampoline” is the somewhat wistful, “When I dream of dying // I never felt so loved.” Spencer says it’s all about embracing your worst fears and finding joy in what terrifies you. To be able to write a lyric this heavy, the people around you must love you very much. It’s clear this is the case for each member of the band. Their incredibly deep bond goes beyond allowing them to make great music; it allows them to embrace the unknown in all aspects of their lives, no matter how frightening.

The trio works on music from a studio in their shared home. They’re the first to admit that spending so much time together, even outside of recording or touring, would be less than ideal for many musicians. But from the outside, it’s clear it’s given them an edge.

“Our routine is to get up in the morning, eat breakfast and go right into the studio,” Lee says. “Over the years, we’ve gotten more comfortable with each other. We’ve been able to work through problems. Getting to know each other is such a complex thing and then on top of that, living together and spending so much time together…”

“It’s a unique dynamic, for sure,” Max says, finishing Lee’s thought. “I’m sure it wouldn’t work for a lot of people. But we just love making music together. Financially, too, it’s great.”

Spencer notes that, “There are times, clearly, when you spend so much time together you get on each other’s nerves.”

“But we give each other our space,” Lee continues. “It works out great for us. We’re traveling all the time now. We definitely get on each other’s nerves. But we also definitely know how to handle it and work smoothly through things.”

In addition to the support they provide each other, their native DC is also essential to SHAED’s success. They credit local outlets, venues and fans for their early successes, and for still following closely as they enjoy their newfound mainstream notoriety.

“It’s not a huge scene, but it’s very tightknit,” Max says of their experiences at home. “If you’re making cool music here, there’s ways to be seen and there’s an audience for it. People still come out to shows – even if you’re not on a huge headlining run around the country – people still come out and support local artists.”

This summer sees the band off to a whole host of amazing new endeavors including sets at festivals like Japan’s Fuji Rock, BottleRock in Napa Valley and Lollapalooza. With tons of material in their arsenal, the trio is in the process of putting together a new album and aiming for a fall release and subsequent tour. All of these events will surely invite new fans into their intimate sonic world, but in the meantime, they’re leaning on each other as things continue to evolve.

“Being a musician and being in this world is so hard,” Lee says as she puts one arm around each Ernst brother, and they lean into her. “To have this constant support – these people that you can rely on and trust and feel at home with – is huge for us. These two are the kindest people in the whole world. It’s really nice to have that family vibe.”

SHAED play DC101 Kerfuffle on Sunday, May 19 at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Tickets start at $55. Gates open at 4 p.m. and the show begins at 4:30 p.m. For more on the event, visit www.dc101.iheart.com. For more on SHAED, visit www.shaedband.com.

Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD 410-715-5550; www.merriweathermusic.com

Photos: Courtesy of Wolf Trap

Caboose Brewing Company’s Wolf Trap Summer Ale Makes Its Return

There is something about seeing a concert in the outdoors that makes a show so much more enjoyable. Maybe it’s because there’s more room to breathe and dance around, or perhaps it’s because an open-air show is a sure sign that summer has arrived. Whatever it is that draws you to an outdoor gig, the promise of new drinking options makes Wolf Trap the place to go this summer.

The music venue is prepping the rollout of the newly updated Wolf Trap Summer Ale, a fairly light pale ale made for easy summertime drinking in collaboration with nearby Caboose Brewing Company. The partnership has been going strong since early 2016, not long after Caboose first opened its doors in Vienna.

In search of a middle-of-the-road beer that wasn’t like anything else they offered, Wolf Trap Director of Food & Beverage TJ Pluck worked with Caboose’s co-owner Matt Greer to create a brew that used the venue’s outdoor elements to inspire the Summer Ale’s flavor profile. In early discussions, Pluck, Greer and Wolf Trap Executive Chef Chris Faessen would talk “about the Wolf Trap experience and what’s unique here.”

“You’re sitting in this oasis of trees in nature in the middle of the city,” Pluck says of the venue.

With the abundance of cedar trees, pines and Faessen’s bee apiaries in mind, the brew was born. As for changes to the batch available for the 2019 season, Pluck and Greer agreed to tone down the bitterness of last year’s recipe.

“We typically bitter with Warrior [hops], but we’ve reduced that quite a bit and introduced some Falconer’s Flight into the mix, which is another kind of aromatic hop,” Greer says. “But other than that, the base malt build has pretty much stayed the same.”

He adds that these changes will make the 2019 batch an ale that is more with the times but anticipates that the team will continue to tweak the ale as they go. While Pluck had long envisioned serving a proprietary beer at Wolf Trap, it was not until Caboose opened its flagship location that he felt he had found the right brewery to work with.

The timing was perfect as Wolf Trap was looking to focus their beer program on local brews, now including Starr Hill and Devils Backbone. Greer adds that a collaboration with Wolf Trap made perfect sense on Caboose’s end – as soon as he and Pluck’s team sat down to talk, the two groups just clicked. Since then, the national park and brewery have only grown closer.

“They are literally a mile-and-a-half down the street from us,” Greer says. “We talk all the time and I’m constantly going to shows. TJ [Pluck] could call me tomorrow and say ‘Matt, I love this beer I had a dream about and I need to make it,’ and of course I would make it for him. It’s become more of a friendship than a business situation.”

Not to mention that as a brewer, Greer is always looking for new projects to work on with local groups.

“Honestly, we live for collaborations. It’s a lot of fun.”

With the summer ale collaboration going so well, Greer and Pluck both mention there’s a good chance the collaboration could grow in the future. While nothing is set in stone, Pluck says the two groups have started talking about potential projects down the line – including adding more Caboose beer at Wolf Trap as the brewery has recently started canning their beer and using the honey produced by Wolf Trap’s bees.

“We’re all hyperlocal, we like participating in each other’s events and we’re just really blessed with having so many like-minded people in the area,” Greer says.

The revamped summer ale isn’t the only drinking option to look forward to at the park this year. Wolf Trap will also be offering Richmond-based Väsen Brewing Company’s Guava Otter Gose.

“[Väsen’s] beers are all named after animals because they’re all about the outdoors, which fits in with us being a national park,” Pluck says. “We’ll actually be one of the very few places in Northern Virginia to have it in cans.”

Devils Backbone’s new Hibiscus Hard Lemonade will be offered, as well as two new cocktails created by Wolf Trap – vodka-and-orange puree concoction the Blood Orange Breeze, and cucumber and Spindrift cucumber sparkling water combo the Cucumber Refresh. On the nonalcoholic side, the national park struck up a collaboration with Caffe Amouri in Vienna to create the Wolf Trap coffee blend – a mix of artisan coffee beans from Papua New Guinea and Guatemala – served hot or iced and sold in to-go bags in the gift shop.

Whatever you’re looking for in an outdoor concert venue, Wolf Trap has something for everyone with their numerous local drink options, natural beauty, and stellar lineup of bands and performances.

“There’s nothing better than great music [and] beer together in one place,” Greer says. “I’m just excited that we’ve got this national resource right next to us.”

Wolf Trap’s summer season kicks off on Thursday, May 23 with a three-night lineup of The Avett Brothers, coinciding with the release date of the revamped Wolf Trap Summer Ale. For more information about the venue’s summer season, visit www.wolftrap.org. For more on Caboose, go to www.caboosebrewing.com.

Caboose Commons: 2918 Eskridge Rd. Fairfax, VA; www.caboosebrewing.com
Caboose Tavern: 520 Mill St. NE, Vienna, VA; www.caboosebrewing.com
Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts: 1645 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org


Artist Picks

Concertgoers aren’t the only ones who like to enjoy a beer during – or before or after – a show. Check out what a few artists coming to Wolf Trap this summer like to sip on during a performance and how they celebrate post-show.

Lake Street Dive
Drummer Mike Calabrese

Favorite pre-show drink:

Honestly, water. Pee clear, sing clear, drink after.

Go-to beer on tour:

Some [members of the band] are IPA people, or NEIPA people. Others prefer something yellow, like a classic German lager or pilsner.

Post-show spot:

The bus! The venue usually hooks up the local stuff for us backstage and then we go into the lounge and ask the bigger questions about life, love and Game of Thrones.

Lake Street Dive plays Wolf Trap Saturday, June 8. Gates open at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $35. Learn more about the band at www.lakestreetdive.com.

Toad the Wet Sprocket
Bassist Dean Dinning

Go-to beer on tour:

I enjoy a Toad the Wet Hop Ale from Green Man Brewery. Either that or a nice, light Mexican beer like Modelo with a squeeze of lime.

Favorite pre-show drink:

I enjoy a shot of decent tequila like Maestro Dobel or Casamigos with a squeeze of lime – never heavy, always refreshing.

Post-show spot:

I always go to [U Street soul food spot] Oohh’s & Aahh’s when I’m in DC. Never miss the opportunity!

Catch the band at Wolf Trap on Sunday, June 30. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets start at $25. Learn more at www.toadthewetsprocket.com.

Photos: Trent Johnson

Behind the Bar: Neighborhood Classics

With DC’s craft cocktail industry on the rise and more and more mixologists digging deep in their bag of ingredients for new flavors, it’s understandable that some creations at local haunts might seem intimidating. However, if you’re in search of a place with a unique atmosphere and a laid-back list of offerings, Grand Duchess in Adams Morgan and the newly opened Jake’s Tavern in Shaw are two of the best, so allow us to take you behind the bar at two of the District’s neighborhood spots.

Grand Duchess
Co-owner Rory Adair

Lined up among the other rowhouse businesses on the Adams Morgan end of 18th Street sits Grand Duchess. Though the name conjures images of mystique and royalty, the location is much more subdued. Upon entering the building adorned with a diamond logo, you’re greeted with the look and feel of a 50s or 60s diner – complete with a jukebox, and assorted memorabilia and art adorning the walls.

“That’s what we’re going for – an old-time comfort you don’t really get anymore in bars – especially because we’re a neighborhood cocktail bar,” co-owner Rory Adair says. “We kind of just pick up what’s cool. The jukebox actually came from a diner that was closing in Southern Delaware.”

Owned and operated by Adair and Vinnie Rotondaro, Grand Duchess opened in 2017 and has since offered AdMo a lowkey place to enjoy vinyl, read a book or hang out with friends for a few hours.

“We’re rock ‘n’ roll vinyl nerds,” Adair says. “We play a lot of records. We have a jukebox full of 45s. I think it adds something. A lot of times, guests will see us put on vinyl and they’ll ask to see the actual covers.”

In fact, the first thing highlighted on the Grand Duchess website is the phrase “Cocktails & Vinyl.” The bar interlinks the two subjects whenever possible – from events and vinyl-only DJ sessions meant to bring in new audiences to cocktail crafting sessions in the “beat lab” inspired by music.

“Vinnie and I will be in here after hours, and we’ll just put some tunes on and figure out what the songs mean and how they translate into a cocktail,” Adair says when describing the pair’s beat lab. “The majority of our cocktails are named for albums. The Louder Than Love is a Soundgarden album. We were thinking something outrageous, and Chris Cornell had a very unique voice. We also have the Twin Infinitives – that’s a Royal Trux album, so we were thinking a little sweeter and juicier.”

Though music and cocktails can be intricate in nature, Adair favors a simpler approach to both. While vinyl collectors and cocktail aficionados can sometimes be intimidating, Grand Duchess is trying to pull in a laid-back clientele with a warmth and openness reflected in the decor and drinks.

“We like to riff on the classics because they’re the best. That’s pretty much our outlook on everything. We don’t get too crazy.”

Adair also has a list of canned beers, wines and happy hour classics, but he always encourages folks to try out one of their creations.

“I have seen a lot of people who otherwise might not have stepped into a cocktail bar who discover that [Grand Duchess] is approachable and cool, and maybe they’ll try a cocktail.”

Grand Duchess: 2337 18th St. NW, DC; www.grandduchessdc.com

LOUDER THAN LOVE
Yellow chartreuse
Gin
Amaro
Lemon


Jake’s Tavern
Bartender Jason Fellman

The name Jake’s Tavern sounds like a neighborhood spot that might be featured in a modern-day rendition of Cheers. Though you won’t find Ted Danson drinking a Pimm’s Cup at the bar, the casual establishment in Shaw has already found a niche since opening in late January.

“The thing we kept hearing over and over again after we opened the doors was, ‘We’re so happy you’re here,’” bartender Jason Fellman says. “There was an appetite for a simple, honest place that was doing things at a high level of service with a low level of pretense. [We’re] just trying to do things well.”

Unlike other neighborhood taverns, Jake’s is extremely bright with white walls and blue trim. The bar is lit by a large window, and the outdoor patio recently opened for warm weather months. The bar’s simple decor is reflected on the menu, which features a plethora of beers from local to national favorites as well as classic cocktails.

“We’re not going to have a ton of esoteric amaros on the list,” Fellman says. “We’re not going to be bending the curve with ingredients. When I go out to a cocktail bar and look at the ingredients list, I may not know some of them. As a consumer, that can be off-putting or intimidating and we’re trying to get away from that. We want you to feel comfortable with a nice, well-prepared Old Fashioned or a Tanqueray and tonic. We want to be as approachable as possible.”

Before the bar established its aesthetic, they wanted to put feelers out to gauge consumer preferences. There was no preconceived notion other than wanting to give locals what they desired most.

“[We have] a tremendous dexterity to engage,” he says. “One of our big objectives was to come here without being steeped in a concept, with the flexibility to be open to feedback from the community. There’s an effort here to simplify service and always be smiling and responsive. People love Manhattans and Old Fashioneds, and that’s where we want to be.”

The current menu features those classics along with variations on the Orange Crush, Martinez and Pimm’s Cup.

“I think it’s spirit-driven and season-driven. You’re going to see a lot more gin-focused stuff as we head into the summer. I’m not trying to show you something you’ve never seen before. What I’m trying to do is [make] what you like the best I can.”

Jake’s Tavern: 1606 7th St. NW, DC; www.jakestaverndc.com

PIMM’S CUP NO2 BOURBON
Pimm’s
Fresh-squeezed lemon juice
House-made mint syrup
Ginger beer

Jake’s Orange Crush
Vodka
Triple Sec
Fresh-squeezed orange juice
Sprite


Big Changes Ahead for Virginia Happy Hour Ads 

Have you ever noticed that happy hour specials outside of Virginia can seem a bit more adventurous than those in the Old Dominion? Starting July 1, that’s slated to change. After an embattled ordeal between the state and area restaurants – many of which had to alter their advertisements between DC, Maryland and Virginia – bars and restaurants now have more creative liberty with which to advertise their offerings.

Actual drink prices can now be listed, along with fun or alliterative drink special titles that allude to the type of alcohol on special. This will no doubt give businesses better ways to entice customers, and in turn give customers a better picture of what their favorite watering hole will have to offer in the summer months and beyond. There are certain things remain unchanged, though. Namely, you won’t find any happy hours past the witching hour of 9 p.m., and two-for-one drink specials remain off the table.

For more information on these changes, visit www.abc.virginia.gov/licenses/retail-resources/happy-hour.

Photo: Rey Lopez

From Mosh Pit to Peak Foodie: Outdoor Music Venues Step Up The Gourmet Goodness

Here’s a game: free associate “summer music festival.” Sunscreen, superstars, mud, Insta, #squadgoals…

Have you gotten to “gourmet mosh pit” yet? Didn’t think so. But that’s changing fast, and summer 2019 is set to be peak foodie season. The days of cardboard pizza are fading. Concertgoers are walking in with elevatexpectations, and music venues are responding with thoughtful menus that range from creatively healthy to Instagrammable decadence.

“The words extraordinary and unexpected should describe everything, including the food,” says Audrey Fix Schaefer, communications director of I.M.P., the legendary DC-based group that owns 9:30 Club and took over operations for the Merriweather Post Pavilion in 2004, waving goodbye to airline service-style food options. “We would rather err on the side of ambition.”

And ambition is absolutely the defining word for festival menus this year. Sean Kenyon, a globally acclaimed bartender and cocktail master, has been refining his processes for large-scale cocktail batching and is ready to debut his libations at Jiffy Lube Live.

“Well-executed cocktails are the result of well-executed systems,” Kenyon observes.

To make it happen, he constructed a system where the event bartenders are simply executing the final step: blending a spirit and a fresh mix.

“I look at it like we are opening a new cocktail bar every night in terms of experience expectations for bartenders, prep and visible instructions,” he says.

With a few spirits – tequila, gin, vodka – and a few mixer options that are all interchangeable, the guest gets to personalize the glass.

“We can change the ingredients within the system to maximize the guest experience without disrupting the overall operation,” Kenyon adds. “We are not just creating a cocktail menu. We are creating a system that lets us be nimble.”

Systems are also front-of-mind at Merriweather. I.M.P. ditched the previous corporate foodservice distributor – which according to Schaefer tasted like airline food because it was made by the same folks – and hired local caterers.

“We wanted the tastes of a neighborhood restaurant with an ambitious menu,” she says. “We want people to arrive hungry.”

In 2017, Wolf Trap overhauled its own menus and also broke away from corporate foodservice distributors; the venue now independently runs its own concessions.

“We took a major leap and selected a small, family-owned business that focuses on local sourcing,” says T.J. Pluck, director of food and beverage at Wolf Trap.

But well-executed systems still require a fresh feed of great ideas to execute.

“I’m a guy who likes change,” Pluck says. “We spruce up the menu every year.”

This season’s inspiration comes from a range of sources including social media, according to Pluck.

“Concertgoers love Instagrammable edibles that make people say, ‘Wow.’”

And people have a lot more exposure to strong flavors now, Schaefer adds, which means that spicier and funkier flavors are in play. Dietary restrictions can complicate menu planning but Pluck notes that “we always work hard to be sensitive and incorporate those into a concession stand environment.” Nearly all concert venues in the DC area now offer gluten-free and vegan options – something almost unheard of a decade ago at all but the most granola of festivals.

“I never thought that people would eat salad at a concert,” Pluck says.

So what can fans expect on their plates this summer?

“This year, we’re focusing on funky, fun, fair food that’s spiced up with flavors like raspberry and chipotle and funnel cake sandwiches,” is how Pluck describes the new menu at Wolf Trap.

Pluck is tapping into happy memories of growing up in the Midwest and enjoying Ohio State Fair food like elephant ears: funnel cakes, rolled, pulled, and topped with cinnamon and sugar.

“We’re always asking, ‘How can we do this better?’ and ‘What sets us apart?’ We’re always looking to raise the bar [at Wolf Trap]. For example, we’ll always serve hamburgers – but ours are made with prime beef and served on a top-of-the-line French brioche bun with arugula, aged cheddar and chipotle aioli.”

Over at Merriweather, Cathal Armstrong (of the legendary Restaurant Eve, and now The Wharf’s Kaliwa) has come on board as Merriweather’s food advisor.

“Cathal lives and breathes food creativity,” Schaefer says admiringly. “People will be coming as much for the food as for the performance.”

Guests will get to explore a menu that includes everything from freshly roasted, husk-on corn topped with Cotija cheese to a house-made jumbo lump crab cake on fresh brioche.

“They’re honestly better than in some fine dining places,” Schaefer says of Merriweather’s crab cake (her personal favorite).

Over at Jiffy Lube Live, in addition to fresh craft cocktails, fans can enjoy the buzzy Impossible Burger: a plant-based patty that bleeds and sizzles when it cooks.

“We have partnered with some great brands including Art Smith’s Art Bird, Questlove’s Impossible Cheesesteak, Guy Fieri’s burgers and new hot dog concept Dog Haus,” says Matt Rogers, Jiffy Lube’s GM and SVP for music.

“My personal favorite is the Art Bird Fried Chicken,” he says. “It is off-the-charts good.”

The folks who are overhauling menus and updating concert dining experiences are riffing off their own memories and tastes to create the perfect concert experience. Pluck is a musician and self-described band geek who says his dream job is working at Wolf Trap; he channels epic memories of concerts with Genesis (the 1992 reunion tour at Cleveland Stadium), The Police and Muse. 

Rogers finds the most fulfilling part of the job to be a providing people with an escape for two hours. Kenyon is also a musician; he pursued band life before committing himself to becoming one of the greatest bartenders in America, and his ideal festival night inspires his Jiffy Lube menu.

“It’s right at dusk, your favorite band is just coming on, the day is fading, your drink is complex and you’re surrounded by friends. Perfection.”

Learn more about the elevated fare and summer lineups at these three venues below.

Jiffy Lube Live: 7800 Cellar Door Dr. Bristow, VA; www.livenation.com/venues/14407/jiffy-lube-live

Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; www.merriweathermusic.com

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

Photo: Rey Lopez

Game-Centric Bars Offer Next-Level Experiences

With a reputation for attracting the Type A working crowd, DC is a hardworking town deserving of a well-needed break from time to time. Enter bars with plenty of distractions in the way of arcade games, social sports and communal entertainment that also provide elevated dining experiences over the typical pub grub. In the past year, the city has seen a wave of bar openings that go beyond the usual food and drink offerings whether they be sport, arcade games, or providing a place to gather and unplug from the 9-5 grind.

DC newcomer SPIN recently opened its eighth location a hop, skip and a jump away from Metro Center, a hub for the downtown working crowd. Malin Pettersson, SPIN’s grand opening manager, reflects on what makes the ping-pong club an attractive destination for District denizens.

“You have to disconnect a little bit after work,” Pettersson says. “Everyone is so busy doing big, important jobs. SPIN is a place where you can really disconnect. We’re in the basement too, so you kind of have to disconnect.”

An oasis from the burdens of office life, the social sport club is an ideal refuge.

“When you play [ping pong], you can’t really focus on anything else but the ball,” he continues. “You can’t think about your issues at work or what you have to do. You just have to let go and watch that ball. I think that’s something that DC needs: a place to disconnect.”

At its core, SPIN is all about offering a place to create relationships on a personal, individual level.

“I think it’s great that [we] don’t want to sit still and want to have an activity, because it’s so much easier to connect with people that way.”

Beyond the escape aspect, SPIN offers an easy environment for folks to let loose and connect over an elevated bar menu and brews.

“Our chef is Filipino so he’s putting a little bit of an Asian twist on some of the items there and it’s been very well-received.”

Notable menu items include the fried chicken banh mi and crispy shrimp bao buns.

The Eleanor in NoMa is another bar raising the game when it comes to menu offerings and entertainment. When owner Adam Stein took the menu into consideration, he focused on comfort foods with some seasonal twists.

“We try to be super eclectic,” he says. “Even though a lot of our stuff falls into the bar category, we make as much as we possibly can in-house.”

Inspiration for some dishes came from the kitchen’s collective history of working together (think elote loco-style hush puppies or whimsical dishes from Stein’s childhood like the spaghetti sandwich.

“It was really important to us to elevate the food, the drinks and the service.”

Another important factor in his decision-making process? Keeping a sense of DC authenticity on the menu. 

“We definitely made sure we involved a lot of the local producers. A lot of our spirits [and beers] are from DC, Maryland and Virginia. In terms of food, we try to be seasonal, so we use a lot of local purveyors.”

Branded as a bowling lounge, bar and grill, The Eleanor caters to a multitude of crowds. No matter who walks in the doors, the mini-bowling lanes, arcade games and pinball machines ensure that anyone and everyone will have a good time.

Players Club on 14th Street offers an approachable cocktail program with throwback games in an environment where guests can have a “laid-back and entertaining time at the bar.”

“The venue works cohesively as a bar, a place to watch sports and an entertainment venue with plenty of options,” says director of operations Scott Herman.

Guests mostly fall into the category of “young professionals to bar and restaurant industry friends that stop by on their night off,” according to Herman. Although the retro basement bar doesn’t offer its own food menu, patrons can have items delivered from nearby Shake Shack.

“People love being able to order Shake Shack without having to leave the bar.”

At the end of the day, it all comes back to building an authentic connection.

“It’s been interesting to see how much people enjoy the games,” Herman notes. “We see lots of couples on dates – having games to play is an easy icebreaker for people that are just getting to know each other.”

Learn more about these game-centric bars below.

The Eleanor: 100 Florida Ave. NE, DC; www.eleanordc.com
Players Club: 1400 14th St. NW, DC; www.playersclubdc.com
SPIN: 1332 F St. NW, DC; www.wearespin.com


Game-Filled Watering Holes

Looking for a quick escape with friends? Whether you live in DC proper or across the bridge, the surrounding areas have plenty to offer in the way of social activities and fun distractions to take you away from the daily grind.

Bar Elena
Adam Stein also co-owns the H Street spot focused on eclectic comfort food (think fancy nachos topped with cotija, radish and black bean puree and General Tso’s wings), local shellfish, and a seasonal cocktail program with diversions that come in the form of pinball machines, skee-ball and classic video games like Ms. Pac-Man. Rounding out the bar’s offerings are two happy hours to draw in the after work and late-night crowds. 414 H St. NE, DC; www.barelenadc.com

The G.O.A.T.
The Arlington sports bar is home to 50-plus HD TVs to catch all the live sports action, plus a gaming lounge complete with the newest arcade games and throwback favorites like shoot-to-win basketball and skee-ball. Snack on next-level bar food such as filet mignon skewers, bulgogi wonton tacos and pastrami egg rolls. 3028 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.thegoatva.com  

Jackie Lee’s
Brightwood Park’s Jackie Lee’s has fun on the forefront of its bar offerings. Patrons of the neighborhood spot can partake in vintage arcade games while chowing down on comfort pub fare like bacon-wrapped jalapeños and knocking back cold brews. Communal tables, Art Deco décor and an assortment of throwback games add to the social bar experience. 116 Kennedy St. NW, DC; www.jackieleesdc.com

Kraken Axes
What better way to let loose than by satisfying the primeval urge to hurl axes? The indoor axe-throwing haven recently relocated to Penn Quarter where guests can take a less traditional route to bar games. Throw back some brews while throwing axes and order up beer, wine at the bar and small plates from Kraken’s next-door neighbor Cedar Restaurant.
840 E St. NW, DC; www.krakenaxes.com

Pizzeria Paradiso Game Room
The local pizza chain’s Georgetown location debuted its game room early last year. The basement bar’s walls are splashed with colorful murals and it’s filled with familiar games like pinball, shuffle ball and skee-ball in addition to a rotating list of popular arcade games. As one can expect from Pizzeria Paradiso, the beer offerings are on point with 60 cans and eight taps featuring rotating craft brews. 3282 M St. NW, DC;
www.eatyourpizza.com/game-room

Punch Bowl Social
An adult playground of sorts, Arlington’s barcade features 25,000 square feet of restaurant, games, outdoor patio space and social activities galore. At the tri-level entertainment destination, guests can take part in all kinds of amusements including karaoke, bocce, bowling, table games (think Giant Scrabble, ping pong, billiards and foosball) and arcade favorites. Bar offerings include plenty of shareable items like sheet nachos and green chorizo fries to go along with boozy punch (of course), craft brews and signature cocktails. 4238 Wilson Blvd.  Arlington, VA; www.punchbowlsocial.com/location/arlington